By Jessica King
The 73rd Apache Marching Band is the only band in Tyler Junior College’s history to face challenges brought by COVID-19 and is learning how to make music and perform in a new way. According to Jeremy Strickland, director of bands and professor of music at TJC, the Apache Band has been “inspirational” to watch as they have shown, “so much willingness to overcome adversity.”
In compliance with TJC’s COVID-19 procedures, the Apache Band has taped six-by-six foot grids on the floor of Gentry Gymnasium, where each student’s chair, stand, and belongings stay. Students also keep a mask on when they are not playing their instrument, according to Strickland. It challenges students,“to have to listen more than they would normally listen and pay attention in ways they haven’t had to pay attention [before],” Strickland said.
In addition to these precautions, the Apache arching band will be a little more spread out than usual. Every student brings their own water, takes care of their individual uniform, and each instrument gets a considerable amount of cleaning, Strickland said.
Strickland reported it has been tough on both the directors and the students to not be able to perform, but the Apache Band is looking forward to its first wind ensemble concert on Feb. 3 in Wise Auditorium.
“The concert will happen whether we have a live audience or not,” Strickland said. The Apache Marching Band, Strickland said, is anticipating its first halftime performance on April 1. The marching band is also planning on performing at TJC’s basketball and volleyball games once it is safe enough for the doors to be open to fans.
“We maintain distance; we clean things two and three times a day. Every chair, every stand gets wiped down between ensembles,” Strickland said, “so that students aren’t getting quarantined or sick.” A few of Strickland’s priorities for the semester are to maintain safety and health for students and staff, and make sure students are in class so the band will get the opportunity to perform. According to Strickland, the students are being diligent in their efforts to make performing possible.
“The band is 100 times more resilient than I expected them to be,” Strickland said. “They show up daily, do everything we ask them to do, procedures, protocols, social distancing, wearing their mask when we’re not playing — they just do it because they want to play their instruments, they want to perform.”
The overarching goal for the band during COVID, Strickland said, is to “bridge the gap,” from this band to the band to come. This is the 73rd year of the Apache Marching Band, and according to Strickland, it is this band’s responsibility to make sure, “when we get to 74 that there is no change in what we do. The expectation stays the same, the legacy gets to continue, the quality stays the high quality that it is and so they get to bridge the gap, even though there is no band before us that has experienced what we’re experiencing.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges for the Apache Band, “the culture that they’ve built is so much fun,” Strickland said. “We are now attracting students to TJC from big metroplex high school bands, great band programs, students that could literally go to any college in the state and have decided to come to TJC to be in the band. That I’m pretty proud of.”